It turns out that I’m an outspoken person.
This surprises me.
I always thought outspoken things. I’d stand up to or disagree with or challenge people in my mind, but raaarrely aloud.
I think that’s one of my favorite things about sobriety and about my journey of self-actualization; as I move forward and remain present, it’s like the light of my soul is washing through my past… Healing the pain and uncovering hidden truths…
I learn more about myself every single day.
I think I was outspoken when I was active in my addiction. Or, at the very least, I was impulsive and occasionally tactless. I’d say stuff without caring how it impacted others. I mean, I was gonna’ forget it by the next day anyway… So why did it matter?
Upon discontinuing all numbing substances, I suddenly became hyper-aware of what people felt and how I my words/actions impacted them. For years I was flooded with the memories I thought I’d forgotten, along with accompanying embarrassment and guilt. I still sometimes have flashbacks, stinging reminders of how out-of-alignment I was… How disloyal I was… All reminders of how much pain I was in underneath all the tactlessness and booze and pills and excessive exercise.
In sobriety, the volume got turned way up on life… To its natural state for me. As a child, I was hyper-sensitive, and this reawakened in me at age 27. To the point where I barely left my house.
I became completely avoidant of anything that resembled conflict. I never again wanted to feel the guilt and embarrassment associated with hurting someone’s feelings. And so, I used my empathy and intuition (and codependency) to constantly keep the waters calm. As soon as someone’s feathers started to ruffle, I’d shift the way I was feeling or acting or even breathing in order to calm them.
I was manipulating people to stay calm, because I was uncomfortable with anything else.
Codependency has layers, I’m learning.
I used to think that “codependency” was when a person didn’t want to be alone. Y’know, those people who won’t stay single and are constantly with their significant others.
The author of Codependent No More, Melody Beattie, uses many definitions in her book. One definition is: a codependent person is one who has let another person’s behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person’s behavior.
While searching for that definition, I came upon a blog post of Melody Beattie’s. Here’s a short exerpt:
“No need to be ashamed to have gone through the process of allowing codependency (in a negative way) to impact our lives, and then learning to stop trying to do what’s impossible (control others) and start focusing on the possible: taking good care of ourselves. Consciously and in a way that takes others and (at last) ourselves into consideration when making decisions.
Feeling embarrassed about different stages of life we experience on the way to becoming who we are now is no different from cringing when we see pictures of how we wore our hair 25 years ago. We can feel that way; but it isn’t necessary. We were doing what we thought best – at that time.
We weren’t crazy – even at the height of our obsessing and controlling. We were codependent on unhealthy factors in our decisions and behaviors.
To many millions of us, that revelation was and still is a huge relief. We set ourselves free to live our lives in a way that was and still is in our best interests.
No shame in that.”
She’s right; that revelation was and still is a huge relief for me. When I feel discontentment and anguish in a relationship, I am frequently shown another deeper layer of codependency. Most of mine is all about assuming/feeling out what people want, and then molding myself into that thing. This wasn’t a conscious choice necessarily; it was simply how I was programmed. Being an ACoA, I learned at a young age to internalize my feelings and be/do whatever I could to keep myself out of trouble.
I learned that it was safest to be the good one.
“Good” was a big umbrella for me. At this current point of my healing, I’m going through all the items under that umbrella and asking, “is this actually good, or is this controlling/limiting/stifling/self-harm/dishonest?” From there, I reorganize. I rewrite. I reprogram.
Standing up for myself is a big one. Disagreeing with someone is something that, even a year ago, made me feel like my head may topple off. I’d get a pounding headache (due to internalizing/absorbing anger rather than releasing it), I’d feel light-headed, and my stomach would cramp.
To this day, I feel these physical aspects arise in a time of conflict, and I actively navigate my way through them. This often results in a feeling of PURE PANIC, as if I’m about to be attacked by a tiger. And then, once I’ve expressed the uncomfortable feelings and haven’t been mauled by a predator, my blood pressure lowers again and I slowly settle back down into my body.
Each time we speak our truth and it’s well-received, we are retroactively healed.
Each time I challenge myself to be honest-especially when it’s hard-I retrain my brain away from the years of codependently molding… And toward a life of authenticity and honest expression.
It’s not a perfect journey, especially the expression of anger.
I’ve learned to calmly express/describe/intellectualize my feelings-especially anger-in a way that the other person can ideally understand… So the issue can be remedied without any true emoting of the feeling.
My therapist says: “It’s like saying ‘that’s funny’ rather than laughing at it.” And it’s true! Inside I’ll be like:
And on the outside:
I’ve found that this can be confusing for people, especially visual people. Like… Well clearly she’s not THAT angry. She’s so calm!
Slowly but surely (and with lots of therapy), I’m discovering the balance between both extremes. One where I can stand up for myself and express myself in the moment, allowing myself space to be outspoken or even a bit passionately explosive.
It’s terrifying and freeing, which sort of describes most things in my life right now.